Van Buren Youth Camp Brings Time-Honored Traditions, Lifelong Friendships and Oodles of Activities to Campers Since 1950

Van Buren Youth Camp

VBYC Welcomes Campers to a 2021 Summer to Remember

Along the shores of Great Bear Lake, a 30-minute drive northwest of Kalamazoo lies Van Buren Youth Camp. Nestled among the rolling hills and rustic cabins, you will hear the rustling of a kite soaring, the crackle of a campfire, and the giggling of campers as they are free to be themselves while they grow and learn at camp.

VBYC invites all children ages six through 18 for a summer full of activities, connections and fun (sometimes quirky) traditions. All campers are welcome, without regard to gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious, economic, or cultural background.

A fixture since 1950, Van Buren Youth Camp helps campers build self-confidence, positive relationships, personal integrity, and individual and group responsibility. Campers leave with lifelong memories and friendships.

Enjoy Mother Nature With 100 Acres To Explore

You read that right: Van Buren Youth Camp’s triple-digit acreage gives a massive space for campers to enjoy and connect. With ample space for swimming, sports, arts and crafts, raising the flag or having a campfire, campers love discovering new spots outside.

If you’re curious as to how this fun space is laid out, VBYC’s map outlines where all of the facilities and activities are located along Great Bear Lake:

Van Buren Youth Camp

Van Buren Youth Camp

Camp Activities & Schedule

The kids won’t be bored at Van Buren Youth Camp. With a mix of structured classes, choice time and group activities, campers experience a wide variety of creative and physical activities during their stay.

The waterfront is a central part of VBYC’s program. Whether swimming, kayaking or canoeing, Great Bear Lake provides an inviting, watery space for playing and learning.

Van Buren Youth Camp

Camper Schedule

The staff at Van Buren Youth Camp knows that children thrive with a consistent schedule. VBYC provides scheduled meals and classes, as well as flexible time for campers to choose their own activities during their stay:

Typical Day at VBYC (More Details)
7:00 AM: Wake up
7:45 AM: Kitchen Patrol
8:00 AM: Flag Raising
8:10 AM: Breakfast
8:50 AM: Camp & Cabin Clean Up
9:15 AM: Cabin Inspections
9:45 AM: Class 1
10:45 AM: Class 2

12:00 PM: Lunch
12:45 PM: Activity & Camp Store
1:30 PM: Cabin Quality Time
2:30 PM: Class 3
3:30 PM: Choice 1
4:30 PM: Choice 2 & Camp Store
6:15 PM: Dinner
7:00 PM: Activity & Camp Store
7:30 PM: Flag Lowering
7:45 PM: Thought/Reflection Time
8:00 PM: Evening Activity
9:00 PM: Campfire
9:30 PM: Clean Up/Get Ready for Bed
10:00 PM: Bedtime

Free time is also on the schedule! During choice time, campers can shop at the store, tackle arts and crafts, or go on a scavenger hunt.

Relaxing with friends or taking a nap are also free time options, allowing campers to recharge before their next adventure.

Van Buren Youth Camp
Camper after visiting the Camp Store

“So much learning happens at camp every single day. But we package it up in fantasy, games, and the magic of free play- the campers have no idea they’re learning some really valuable stuff!”

-Dottie Myers-Hill, Camp Director

Camp Classes

There is no shortage of class offerings at Van Buren Youth Camp. Each camper takes three classes per day, providing the opportunity to try all of them by week’s end:

VBYC Classes (Descriptions)
Canoeing & Kayaking
Sporty Initiatives
Song, Dance & Drama

Summer Camp Traditions

Van Buren Youth Camp sets itself apart from others with some fun, time-honored traditions.

Campers return every summer, eager to kiss a moose, sing camp songs or earn tokens for their cabin. Campers also get to jump into the lake if they receive at least five pieces of mail (send as many letters or care packages as you wish).

Let’s return to the moose…

Cleo the moose is a beloved tradition at Van Buren Youth Camp. If you’re caught with your elbows on the table, you have to (or get to) kiss Cleo. We’ve heard she’s very friendly.

Van Buren Youth Camp

Counselor Leadership Program

VBYC ensures that campers are overseen by the best of the best and makes training their staff a priority with the longest continuously running leadership program in Michigan.

Counselors spend a full week in training to lead a cabin of children through their week at Van Buren Youth Camp.

Camperships offer Financial Assistance

Van Buren Youth Camp wants to welcome as many campers as possible and does not want anyone to miss out on participating due to cost.

Alumni and community partners donate to the Campership Fund, which provides financial assistance to families. 25% – 100% Camperships are available; interested families should check the box for financial aid when completing the online application.

COVID-19 Safety

The team at Van Buren Youth Camp believes that children should be able to get outside with trusted adults and teen role models – interacting with their peers without internet, cell phones, and screen shares- and they are ready to do it safely for all campers and staff.

Every aspect of their daily schedule has been redesigned to address social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols, including (but not limited to) the following:

COVID-19 Safety Measures (Detailed Plan)
Mask wearing
Hand washing
Increased sanitation
Establish cohorts/pods to keep small groups together
Regular temperature checks/screening of VBYC staff
Games and activities that minimize the use of shared equipment
Maximizing time spent outdoors
Reduced total # of campers enrolled & only 4 campers assigned per cabin*
*Families can also choose tent camping with siblings or friend groups as a cabin alternative. Contact VBYC for more details.

Van Buren Youth Camp
VBYC Campers in Pods

Registration FAQs

Ages & Stay: Camps are designed for grades 1-12. Grades 1-3 are 3 days/2 nights. Most others are a week long (schedule).

Food Allergies: Van Buren Youth Camp is a nut-free facility. The Camp Store offers a variety of snacks for campers to purchase, including gluten-free options.

Counselors: Counselors are assigned four campers for the week, focusing on safety and fun. They stay in the same cabin with their campers, sharing meals and attending activities together. 

Other Staff: There is a team of dedicated and enthusiastic staff at VBYC, including the director, certified instructors, head counselors, and health officers.

Cost: Varies by camp (see schedule). Financial Aid is available through their Camperships Fund.

Accreditation & Licensing: VBYC an American Camp Association accredited camp and is licensed by the Michigan Department of Human Services and affiliated with the United Way.

Registration for 2021 Summer Camp is now open.

Join Van Buren Youth Camp for what promises to be a wonderful, fun-filled experience your child won’t soon forget.

Partner Info

12370 45th Street
Bloomingdale, MI 49026

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